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Management Plan

1847, year of tragedy

  • The Great Famine
  • The drama of the quarantine
  • A terrible toll
The Great Famine

Grosse Île and the Irish Memorial National Historic Site of Canada recounts and highlights one of the saddest pages in Canadian history, the tragic experience of Irish immigrants in 1847. This catastrophe was to leave an indelible mark on the collective memory of Irish Canadians.

The tragic events of 1847 on Grosse Île are linked to the Great Famine that afflicted Ireland from 1845 to 1849. These years are considered to be among the most decisive but also the most traumatic in Ireland’s history. It is difficult to imagine that in less than a decade, the population of Ireland, then 8 million, was reduced by a quarter. Over one million people died of starvation, disease and malnutrition, and one million more chose to emigrate. Even today, the population of Ireland is still lower than it was in 1841.

Irish immigrants boarding for the American continent Irish immigrants boarding for the American continent
Illustrated London News, May 10, 1851

The Great Famine reached its peak in 1847. In that year alone, some 100 000 emigrants left Europe for Québec City, with most of that number being of Irish origin. Weak from hunger and malnutrition, crammed into unsanitary sailing ships that were poorly equipped for passengers, the Irish immigrants quickly fell prey to disease, especially typhus and dysentery, during their crossing. Over 5000 men, women and children perished at sea or while waiting offshore for landing at Grosse Île.

In 1847, this flood of immigrants, and the contagious typhus carried by them, created a crisis situation. The epidemic proportions of the disease aboard the immigrant ships meant that an even worse catastrophe would befall the Grosse Île quarantine station.


Origin and context of the project
Management plan
Quarantine and public health
1847, year of tragedy
Canadian immigration in Québec City during the years of the Grosse Île quarantine station